Today we are going to the northeast of the country, in a city filled with history, with an intense cultural life, Iasi. The first time visitor will find out that they are surrounded by history with every step, related to many eras, be it the history of the prehistoric culture of Cucuteni, the era of the great medieval noble families, the historic election of Alexandru Ioan Cuza as ruler of the united Romanian Principalities, or many manifestations of the arts and sciences.
Today's trip to Iasi is occasioned by an important celebration. 160 years ago, on January 5, the Elective Assembly in Iasi voted into office as ruler of Moldavia Alexandru Ioan Cuza. The corresponding assembly in Bucharest elected him ruler of Wallachia on January 24, 1859, effectively uniting the two entities into a single state, called the Romanian Principalities, a first important step in the creation of the modern Romanian state. We spoke to Anca Zota, coordinator of the Iasi Tourism Information Center.
“On January 24, we always have activities dedicated to this event, which is the most important of the year for us here in Iasi. We have lots of festivities that end with the Round Dance of the Union. We also have traditional music concerts, and every museum and tourist site that has the slightest connection with this celebration organizes some event to observe the day.”
Anca Zota recommends Iasi for its pleasant atmosphere and the welcoming air: “There are plenty of opportunities for cultural tourism, we have great offers for active tourism, too. There is the famous pilgrimage on St. Paraskeva day, along with a rich offer in terms of religious tourism. Lately, another type of tourism that emerged is business tourism, as well as medical tourism. However, in order to truly grasp the essence of the city of Iasi, I would recommend starting your visits with the Palace of Culture, which includes four very interesting museums. The History Museum will provide you with an idea of how the city developed. The Ethnography Museum shows us the way in which our ancestors made their daily living. The Art Museum has a great Romanian painting collection. One other great collection is that of the Museum of Mechanical Music. The curators of this museum organize a festival every two years. Another interesting collection is that of the Metropolitan Museum, in the basement of the Metropolitan Bishopric of Iasi. Visitors can see the old foundations of the building, in addition to the exhibits. One other emblematic museum for the city is the University Museum, showcasing the Cucuteni stone age civilization, and about the Alexandru Ioan Cuza University, the oldest one in the country. I want to make a point of telling tourists that they should not miss the opportunity to visit famous writer Ion Creanga's memorial house. All Romanians know all about this writer, but foreign visitors may enjoy it too, because it is a very well preserved traditional Romanian home, in a beautiful neighborhood. One other beautiful objective is the Botanical Garden, especially for tourists who enjoy the outdoors.”
It is a great idea to visit Iasi during your summer vacation. You will find there a relaxing atmosphere, great Romanian cuisine restaurants, and restaurants catering for international tastes as well. There are plenty of clubs and cafes with live music. Local bands and bands traveling from all over the country and abroad play jazz, rock and blues late into the night. You can also plan a vacation depending on the schedule of events. You will definitely find something to enjoy here.
Here is Anca Zota once again: “We have some events that have gained tradition, and are scheduled at specific times. In late February we have the Azalea and Camellia Exhibition at the Botanical Garden. In the first week of March we have the March Fair. One week before Easter we have a fair dedicated to the event, and in May we have a month dedicated to music. On May 11 and 12 we have the Folk Festival of Iasi, between May 16 and 19 we have a rock music festival, and between May 24 and 26 we have the Hangariada Festival at the Air Club in Iasi, which is a festival including art, music, and flying airplanes. The music shows are accompanied by air shows and parachute jumps. In the last weekend of June we have a traditional festival dedicated to the Cucuteni stone age culture, featuring the famous Cucuteni ceramics. In October we have two interesting festivals: the International Literature and Translation Festival, and the International Youth Theater Festival. If you want to attend you should buy your tickets a few months in advance, because these festivals sell out very quickly. The people who come to Iasi may want to book their trip for the month of October, where we have the city celebration on the 14th.”
Anca Zota told us that tourist traffic has been on the rise in the last few years: “So far, since our grand opening in 2006, the greatest numbers of tourists have come from France, Italy, Spain and Germany. Lately we have had greater and greater numbers of tourists from Israel. They are delighted with the fact that this is a special city, full of welcoming and smiling people, with plenty of things to see and do. We have a map of the city in English, and lots of promotional materials in English, French and German, which we provide to tourists.”
Iasi is a great venue for outdoor activities: “The city is surrounded by forests, where you can take long walks. The forests are very safe. We have marked trails for walking, as well as for cycling. You can pick among trails for experienced trekkers, and less experienced ones. You can take walks as long as 20 km in the forests. There are bicycle rental centers, and our office keeps in touch with them, and we highly recommend them.”
Iasi, therefore, is a highly recommended tourist destination for any time of the year.